Friday, October 30, 2009


If we were to put a group of random professionals in a room and asked them what their top three business pet peeves are surely the unreturned phone call would be in their short list.

Ironic, since the telephone was created with the hope of improving communication, not making it more frustrating.

"An amazing invention-but who would ever want to use one?" --Rutherford B. Hayes, after making his first phone call upon its invention

Personally, the unreturned phone call is in my top three most disliked habits when dealing with people in a personal or professional level. Although, I am the first to say mea culpa for my own behavior which can, at times, be less than exemplary. But this behavioral flaw is constantly under my radar and I am working on improving. I find that one of the best potions against the forgotten call is keeping each other accountable in the office, forming unofficial alliances if you will.

"People who are funny and smart and return phone calls get much better press than people who are just funny and smart." --Howard Simons

One of the cloudy areas, where phone call responsibility often gets lost, is the confusing way in which we sometimes approach the "I'll call you/you'll call me?" moment. This could be because we are rushed, experience pangs of first-date-nerves, or simply have our heads already in the next meeting. So, just like one is to be in the moment when first meeting someone, one must remain in the moment until the time comes to bid farewell. This means, setting clear expectations of who will call whom and by what time/date. Don't be wishy-washy about this and take control of the situation by recapping when necessary.

You can hit all the right buttons during a business meeting. Be concise, focused, engaging. charming, cool, calm and collected, but if you don't follow up as promised an uphill battle awaits you. Don't undermine yourself.

"If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me."--Jimmy Buffet

It is said that people will forget many things about you, your clothes, your hair, even your handshake, but they will always remember how you made them feel. At the risk of walking the slippery high-rope of the Feelings Territory, while momentarily stepping away from Manly Man County, I'll be the first to say it: an unreturned phone call can make others feel disrespected and under appreciated. This, needless to say, won't make things easier the next time you are trying to close a deal with said individual & it surely won't get you unsolicited recommendations. So make life easier for you, and others, and don't be a Parrothead, or at least not when it comes to business.

"The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink."--Fran Lebowitz

Lastly, when you are returning that call as promised, remember to not get distracted with other office issues. Act, that is talk and listen, as if the call's recipient was there with you. In other words, act as if you could offer them a drink. Body language can be read on the phone almost as much as in person, and it is just as impactful. I think we all can use that reminder, so perhaps this is as good a time as ever to refresh your team's memory about making those call backs, not being a parrot head, and having that metaphorical drink ready to be offered during their next call.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


We, at Duncan Consulting, cannot say enough positive things about making the work environment as fun as is more proof on how the fun stuff has the power to change attitudes and, when properly executed, the positivism spills over and sticks to those around us like fuzz on Velcro.

Friday, October 16, 2009


A man has no more character than he can command in a time of crisis. -Ralph W. Sockman

When I think of leadership in times of crisis two people come to mind, Rudy Giuliani and Chesley "Sully" Sullenberg III. Regardless of whether we share their perspective and view points in other areas of their careers, wouldn't we all want to have such visceral response in a time of crisis?

I am positive experience plays a huge role in these two leader's responses to a time of crisis, but even those of us that at times still feel a bit green have hope. There are many things us, mere mortals, can do to be ready and it all boils down to preparedness, good instincts & a cool head.

Preparation involves lots of planning, training, repetition, educating and even-the often despised-role playing. Only via the conscious use of these tools we'll be able to make it so our reaction becomes nothing but what looks like an instinctual (but well thought of) a karate move. Sharp and decisive. But to achieve this as a team you'll have to become your team's Mr. Miyagi.

Leaders won't always be perfect, they'll make mistakes, and-provided they have decent people skills-most times they will be forgiven for their faux pas. However, in a crisis, if a leader is not a quick-thinker and an even faster-doer, no forgiveness will follow. Too much is at stake when a crisis pays us a visit.

Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own. -Charles de Gaulle

Some questions to ask yourself:

* How prepared are you to face a sudden and unforeseen financial, personnel, or physical crisis?

* How prepared is your team to work as one?

* Who are your natural leaders? Are they training others?

No matter how you choose to prepare yourself and your team for a crisis remember the oriental wisdom of Chinese culture. They have two characters that comprise the word crisis: one represents "danger", the other "opportunity."

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